Oklahoma, Wednesday @PeopleSport11
Damian Lillard sank a three-pointer on the buzzer to cap a 50-point display as the Portland Trail Blazers completed a late fightback to send Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder crashing out of the NBA playoffs on Tuesday.
Needing a win to keep the best-of-seven series alive, Oklahoma City appeared to be on their way to forcing a game six after overturning a nine-point deficit at the end of the third period to open up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.
But a sensational burst of scoring hauled the Blazers back within striking distance as their home fans at the Moda Centre roared them on.
Lillard levelled the score at 115-115 with a driving layup and when Westbrook subsequently fluffed a chance to restore Oklahoma City’s lead with 18.3 seconds left, Portland ace Lillard was left with a chance to grab the win.
The 28-year-old point guard took his time, eating up the final few seconds before sinking a three-pointer from long-range to seal a 118-115 win and a 4-1 series victory.
“Sometimes it’s your turn to go through something, and when you keep fighting, and keep working through it, and stay together, there’s a reward waiting for you,” Lillard said after the win.
Earlier, Lillard had kept Portland in contention almost single-handedly, playing all 24 minutes of the first half and knocking down 12 of 18 shot attempts to score 34 points by the break.
His first-half exploits appeared to have caught up with him as the Blazers flagged in the third period. But the Portland talisman led a mesmerising late rally to finish with 50 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Maurice Harkness added 17 points, Enes Kanter added 13 and C.J. McCollum finished with 17. – AFP